beef BNLS and beans

My supermarket sells “BNLS”. I’m sure, if you’ve been to the supermarket lately, that you will have seen them there, and maybe even have bought a package or two from time to time. Sometimes it is labeled BEEF BNLS, sometimes it is PORK BNLS or LAMB BNLS. Even when it’s beef, you have your choice of brisket, stew meat, or shanks. It’s always too tough to treat subtly. You have to give it serious seasoning and braise it for hours. This recipe uses shanks.

If you don’t happen to have BNLS, you can make you own. Just use the meat as bought and then remove the BNS before using.

As you may have noticed from the sheer number my other recipes using them, I like beans. They even seem to like me. They provide valuable soluble fiber in my diet, keep me regular, and sharpen my awareness of those around me (so they won’t be so aware of me). If I cook them long enough, I can usually be a little less aware. In any event, my wife generally won’t let me cook them on the day before an event that we are in closed quarters with others. On occasion, we serve them to guests—close friends who share our tastes and forgive us for any pending awkwardness—and this one is certainly one that you can serve on such occasions.

But that’s not why I like beans. I like them because they absorb and enhance the flavors of whatever you cook with them. Braised beef shanks have a taste and consistency that is outstanding in this combination.

  • 1 lb beef BNLS*, shank preferred
  • 1 cup libbity* beans, washed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 40 cloves garlic*
  • 2 tsp beef bouillon, granulated
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves (fresh preferred)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp yeast extract (e.g. Marmite® or Vegemite®)
  • <salt>, to taste

An hour or so before you start the rest of this recipe, wash the beans, put them in 3 cups water, and bring to a boil in a 3 quart sauce pan. Turn off the heat and let them soak until you are ready to start.

Drain the beans and set them aside while you use the pot to brown the BNLS until juices are seared in. Then add in the beans and water, bring to a simmer, and let them cook for an hour. Add the onions, garlic, and remaining ingredients. Bring back to a simmer and let it continue for another hour.

Meanwhile, have a cocktail, make a green salad and a batch of cornbread, watch the news, and then serve everything at once. I like to serve the BB&B over crumbled cornbread on a plate drizzled with the extra juice and topped with a few jalapeņo pepper slices. My wife prefers it in a bowl, with the cornbread on the side.

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.